We only received our review copy of Wolfenstein: Youngblood on July 24. Therefore, we are not ready to fully review the game yet. However, you can find some early game impressions below, based off of 5 hours of playtime.
What struck me in my first few hours with Wolfenstein: Youngblood is that this Wolfenstein game has a lot of differences from those that have come before it. Those changes mean that Youngblood plays much differently to The New Colossus or The New Order. Instead of a corridor shooter with mostly linear levels with you heading from point A to point B, MachineGames and Arkane Studios have essentially now created an arena shooter, with open environments and more dynamic varied combat.
See, the middle chunk of the game; everything between the prologue and epilogue takes place in five or so districts of Paris, with you revisiting them multiple times to work towards your overall goal of finding BJ. Those districts feature several areas all connected to one another creating a large arena to explore and kill Nazis in. They are a lot like the districts in Dishonored 2. Youngblood even has you bouncing between districts within the same mission, too.
In fact, Arkane’s influence can be felt everywhere in Wolfenstein: Youngblood. Levels are far more vertical with you having to use your Power Suit’s double jump to find shortcuts between areas and new rooms bursting with loot to pick up. That, in turn, makes combat more of a dance than a run-and-gun shooter. You have to jump to avoid attacks, dodge from side-to-side using your Power Suit and switch weapons to match the ammo type with the armor the Nazi is wearing.
Unfortunately, that means that Stealth isn’t really effective or possible here. Enemies are not specifically placed; instead, they are scattered around an arena looking at and after one another. The Commander system does return but the distance to them is no longer shown, making stealth even less possible. Instead, the game lets you loose on a group of enemies and lets you kill them with the incredibly punchy and satisfying weapons MachineGames are known for.
That does make Youngblood somewhat more simplistic than previous Wolfenstein games. Despite that, five hours in and I have been having a blast just moving from street to street, building to building, making enemies splinter into a thousand pieces and leak blood from as many bullet holes in their bodies as possible. Co-op has also been a blast for the exact same reasons, although combat is a little tougher when playing with another human, rather than having the AI control your sister with an almost flawless performance.
The game makes that combat gratifying in multiple ways beyond just the sharp gunshots and satisfying gibbing. Youngblood expands heavily on the abilities and weapon upgrades with more than forty of the former and at least ten upgrades for each weapon. All of this is tied into the game’s progression system as well. You will level up as you kill enemies, complete objectives and loot coins that are littered literally everywhere. That levelling system grants you more health, increased damage and the option to buy new abilities. Collecting coins meanwhile will allow you to purchase skins for your Power Suit and Weapons, as well as weapon upgrades.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood consistently grants you new currency, abilities, and options to vary your playstyle. It feels like you are hit with a level up every few minutes or so, giving the game a satisfying arcadey wrapping that complements the chaos and lack of downtime found in the combat perfectly. The way all of these systems and mechanics interlink with one another reminds me so much of Rage 2, where you would visit a location, kill everyone, loot everything, and move on to the next.
But, don’t let that worry you, because the characters and narrative of Youngblood are far more interesting than those found in Avalanche’s open-world shooter. BJ’s two twin daughters, Jessie and Zofia, are wonderfully quirky and lovable weird and the banter between them, as well as Grace’s daughter Abby, is top-notch. Almost everything that comes out of their mouths has given me a laugh and getting to see them kill a Nazi for the first time immediately sets the tone of this experience in a gory and hilarious way.
Obviously, as I am only five hours in I can’t speak for the narrative as a whole. However, I am intrigued to see where it ends up and why BJ has gone missing. The only thing that slightly disappoints me about the game so far is that the characters outside of the core three mentioned above are mostly forgettable. The game also does a bad job of introducing you to them. After a brief introduction to these peripheral story characters, those same individuals only serve as mission givers from then on – you don’t get to learn anything about them or hear their stories. Which is strange given how much emphasis was put on this aspect in the first two games.
Five hours in and Wolfenstein: Youngblood has been the most fun I have had with the series. The combat is arcadey, visceral, satisfying and the new emphasis on upgrades and abilities allows for more experimentation. Although most of the characters are mission givers, Jessie, Zofia, and Abby have more than made up for that flaw, carrying the experience thus far and I expect them to continue doing so as I progress further through the game. Expect a full review of the game by the end of the week.
Review copy provided by the publisher.